(click on pictures to enlarge)
I’m glad to be in Rome at this particular time as the summer opera season at the Terme di Caracalla has just begun. The venue is spectacular and to sit there outdoors watching opera is really something special. Verdi’s Nabucco was playing which I had never seen before and since I love one of the choruses (Va’ pensiero) I was very keen to go.
I invited my friend Sister Rosemary to join me since she has finished her musical training in Rome and is heading back to the US. She was most excited as obviously, she doesn’t get to go to these events and especially not late at night (the opera started at 9pm). I brought a picnic dinner which we enjoyed in the grounds before the performance and to my happy surprise, Sr. Rosemary brought something to drink. I won’t say what but we were in good spirits after our al fresco supper!
The opera Nabuco is one of Verdi’s earlier ones and is considered to have permanently established Verdi’s reputation as a composer. Incidentally, he was born and lived in a small village called Roncole not far from Loris’ hometown. His mother was a spinner and his father an innkeeper (Verdi’s, not Loris’!). Loris used to recount being taken as a child to see Verdi’s operas being performed in neighbouring outdoor venues and in Teatro Reggio, the Parma opera house. Audiences in Parma are apparently critical, unforgiving, and tough to please thinking nothing of voicing their disapproval with slurs and insults should an opera not come up to the mark or with cheers and whistles when it does.
The story of Nabucco is based on the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of the Israelites and their exile from their homeland. The stage set was sparse and fitting for Caracalla. The music and singing of the Rome opera company were magnificent and when Va’ pensiero was sung, I almost cried. It’s the chorus of the Hebrew Slaves and expresses their longing for the promised land. Though sad, it is very beautiful. Legend has it that it was popular during and after the time of Italian unification as it represented the wish of the people for a united Italy which up until then was a collection of independent kingdoms.
My only criticism of the Caracalla production was the use of modern costumes. The cast looked like they had just arrived from fighting in Syria with even the women wearing combat gear. Yes, maybe I’m old fashioned but I would have preferred to see the cast wearing some flowing robes. Apparently, its cheaper to use modern costumes which might explain this choice. Hard to see the costumes in this photo as photography is not permitted during the performance and I only got a quick shot at the end during the applause.
Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed the opera but rushed off quickly at the end so that Sr. Rosemary could get back to the convent before it got too late. She claimed that everyone would be asleep by the time she got there anyway so she wasn’t too worried. I felt good that I had given her this small pleasure and memory of Rome before she departed and I’ve been humming Va’ pensiero to myself ever since. Look it up on You Tube and check out the New York Met version in 2002. You will be humming it to yourself as well!